Summary Sheriffs

Summary sheriffs will sit in Scotland’s sheriff courts for the first time today, 1 April 2016, as part of reforms to the Scottish court system.

The post of summary sheriff, which was established by the Courts Reform (Scotland) Act 2014, was created to ensure that cases in Scotland’s courts are heard at the appropriate level in the court structure, enabling sheriffs to focus on solemn business and more complex civil cases. The 2014 Act also abolished the office of stipendiary magistrate.

Robin Christie and Allan Findlay, who served as stipendiary magistrates in the Sheriffdom of Glasgow and Strathkelvin, officially take up their appointments to the newly created judicial office from today.

The following part-time stipendiary magistrates also become part-time summary sheriffs from 1 April: J Kevin Duffy, Colin Dunipace, J Euan Edment, Sukhwinder Gill, David Griffiths, Diana McConnell. 

The remaining 13 appointments to the office of summary sheriff are effective from 4 April 2016 unless otherwise stated.

Summary sheriffs appointed for Glasgow and Strathkelvin, sitting at Glasgow Sheriff Court, are: Brian Cameron, Tony Kelly, Frances McCartney (effective from 3 May 2016), Mary McCrory and Walter Mercer.

The summary sheriffs appointed for Grampian, Highland and Islands, based at Aberdeen Sheriff Court, are: Margaret Hodge, Christine McCrossan and Morag McLaughlin.

Summary sheriffs appointed for South Strathclyde, Dumfries and Galloway, and based between Airdrie, Ayr and Hamilton sheriff courts, are: Sara Matheson, Mhairi Mactaggart, Andrew McIntyre and Allan McKay.

Derek Livingston has been appointed as a summary sheriff for Tayside, Central and Fife based at Falkirk Sheriff Court.

Summary sheriffs will sit in the sheriff courts and their criminal jurisdiction is in respect of summary prosecutions. A summary sheriff will conduct summary trials and be able to impose appropriate sentences in summary proceedings.

In summary procedure the maximum penalty, except where lower penalties are prescribed by a particular statute, is 12 months’ imprisonment and a fine of £10,000. There are, however, wide discretionary sentences including a Community Payback Order which may involve detailed conditions,  drug treatment and testing orders, restriction of liberty orders, supervised attendance orders and the power to order compensation, in addition to other incidental orders including football banning orders, non-harassment orders, anti-social behaviour orders, disqualification orders, and forfeiture of vehicles or other property.

In addition, a summary sheriff will have competence over certain procedural matters in solemn cases prior to the first diet. This would include, for example: the granting of warrants for arrest and production of documents; custody hearings which include bail and bail review hearings. 

Schedule 1 of the Courts Reform (Scotland) Act 2014 details the civil proceedings which a summary sheriff will have competence to deal with.  In short, a summary sheriff will be able to deal with the following proceedings: Family; domestic abuse; adoption; children’s’ hearings; forced marriage; warrants and interim orders; diligence proceedings; extension of time to pay debts and simple procedure.